The most interesting part of the conversation was listening to two â€œadultâ€ authors talk about YA and try to distinguish what differentiates YA from adult literature. Hamilton observed that YA literature often tries to capture a sense of alienation or a lack of belonging – that’s something he was interested in with The Lock Artist, and that’s one of the reasons he thinks it might appeal to teens. Bell said that he thinks that the main difference between YA and adult literature, especially now that YA is getting darker (note: not sure I agree with him here, I’m just relaying his words!) is that â€œit’s about young adults and acknowledging that young adults go through the same life experiences as adults.â€
Both of them said they didn’t intended to write for young adults, and Hamilton in particular mentioned that he’d thought about writing for young adults but was worried about condescending to the audience. Instead, they wrote â€œadultâ€ books with young adult protagonists. Bell, who’s also written two books teenage protagonists, said he likes writing about teenage girls because â€œyou can’t overdramatize them!â€ Hamilton wrote his teen protagonist as a break from his successful mystery series and a chance to do something different.
I’m so used to talking YA with other people who read and write or write about a lot of YA; it was fascinating to get the perspective of accidental YA authors like Hamilton and Bell who are outsiders to the community in some ways. Maybe they’ll be insiders soon – I hope they’ll keep writing teenage protagonists!
–Emily Calkins, reading Divergent
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